My personal favorite is the Chord DAC 64.
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Lot of good smooth sounding dacs mentioned above.. I too second John's choice of Audio Note,,, there are a lot of decent dacs like mentioned above. The Audio Notes are quite surprising, I even think their entry level tube output dacs are surprisingly smooth sounding and inexpensive,,, to me they blow away dacs like the 24/96 MSB Link Dac which is a surprisingly decent very inexpensive dac,,, Even the old Classe Dac-1 isn't a bad sounding smooth Dac. I like the Audio Note that John mentioned,, don't forget you also need a good cable and transport to complete the smooth sound.. One of those belt driven CEC's and a good Audio Note Dac (like the tube Audio Note)along with a good dig cable will be about as good as anything for CD. The CEC and Audio Note seem to mate well together and a favorite for many top end analog people who strive for the best. John gave you a very good choice along with the others. John may even sell the Audio Notes.
I also own the Audio Note 3.1 Balanced Dac, and it is superb, if your budget permits. Joe at JC Audio can set you up with any Audio Note stuff you need.
Re: the above post, in fact, I just ordered a Spectral SDR 3000 transport to mate with it (will be doing a shootout soon with some other transports- too bad I don't have a CEC to add in the mix!)
I'd have to say that the Dodson 217 MKII D (the latest iteration, recently discontinued) is the best bargain on the used market: retailed for $5995, can be had for around 3k. There's a very good reason this dac is used by many audio societies; I found the sweet AND detailed sound to my liking, as well. I owned the Bel Canto dac immediately before...no contest (of course, for the price difference, there shouldn't have been). It loved my CEC transport, BTW. I am curious why Dodson gets so little respect from 'gon-ners? Could it be that he is a self-marketer? A bonus: Ralph is great to deal with, patiently helping you get the most out of his design. Try getting THAT service with corporate gear!
I agree with the dodson 217 mk 2D. I owned one for a year and a half before changing for an audiomeca. It was a great dac and I am considering one for my second system. The sound stage was so wide and deep that I bought it after listening to only a couple of cuts. The audiomeca was slightly smother in the high end and a litte tighter in the base, but the difference is slight. Also, if you have the bucks, several folks are also raving about the new dodson (it's freeze dried!)... Call Ralph and he will sell you.
Just out of curiosity, what transport are you using with the DAC64? I use a CEC TL1X primarily, but I also have a Burmester 001 and have occasionally used its digital out
into the Chord.
Just to dip a toe into the SACD water, I recently bought a Sony SCD-CE 775 (closeout sale at Electronic Express for $180! Couldn't pass it up.) I know the Sony isn't s.o.t.a.
but my hybrid SACD/CDs sound pretty good on it. I've gotta say, however, the CD layer through the CEC/Chord still has quite an edge on the SACD layer through the Sony. At least I know now that with the present meager selection of classical SACDs, it's not worth spending more on better SACD hardware.
That may change, maybe not...
I use the Electrocompaniet Cd player as my main transport. I also use a Pioneer megachanger and a Mcintosh 7008 6 disc changer through a GW Labs jitter device to the Chord for various purposes. I also have a Shanling tube player and a Sony SACD 333 5 disc changer but do not use them through the Chord. The Chord is so smooth. I like the full buffer setting but vary it to the other settings from time to time.
I'd go with an Ayre CX-7 CDP before I would go with ANY transport/DAC combo.
See my review of the Ayre against two Dodson DACs.
What is your price range and what are you trying to accomplish. Each DAC mentioned is very good, they all do different things for the price. The audimeca at used prices is great, so are the audio notes, Bel Canto and Dodson.
If you need a good deal I know wome very good dealers who carry the various lines mentioned. I am not a dealer.
Add my voice to those recommending the Dodson DA-217MkII-D. As I described on another thread, I bought one here on AudiogoN to upgrade the sound of my Denon DCD-1650AR. I was happy with the Denon as a transport, but I wanted to improve the resolution and the sample rate. I initially planned to get a Bel Canto DAC2, but I wasn't happy with the physical layout. I am a retired electronic engineer, and when I read about the Dodson, and the design techniques that Ralph Dodson (another retired electronic engineer) used, I decided that this was the DAC for me.
Adding the Dodson, via a Harmonic Tech Magic Digital One RCA cable (which I also bought here on AudiogoN), made quite a difference. The sound became much more focused and transparent, while at the same time smoother. The sound stage expanded, and the localization of individual instrumental voices in the orchestra became much more precise and consistent. There was also a notable increase in the dynamic range.
I had some questions about the unit after I bought it, and I called Ralph several times. He was always gracious and helpful.
As an outboard DAC solution, the Dodson DA-217MkII-D worked well for me. I recommend it highly.
I heard a complete Audio Note System at Audio Limits.
Wow!!! it is unbelievable.. The Audio Note ANE SEC Silver Sigs along with Audio Note's M8 Preamp ,Kegon Monoblocks and the 4.1x Balanced is the ultimate. Even the Sogon Cable's are incredible..
I am selling my complete System to try and recreate what they have.. after visiting them I am a True believer in Audio Note. absolute worlds best..
It depends on what you mean by smooth.
There are a lot of DAC's out there that reduce the dynamics to sound smooth because there is so much sibilance otherwise. I prefer a DAC that delivers ALL of the music and dynamics without ANY sibilance. Frankly, the only place you will find this in an off-the-shelf product is the Meitner, unless you are willing to pay for mods to other DAC's. This is how I got there.
Snoops, I heard Peter's personal system and agree, at least for a certain focus in the music. Peter loves the emotion in old opera and in single instruments, and his electronic wrings it out of the recordings. I would think achieving that sound without just buying the entire system would be nearly impossible, but good luck.